Capri

Ciao Ragazzi!

The Amalfi coast boasts spectacular views of Mt.Vesuvius from any and every angle. And, whilst you get used to seeing this huge volcano on your doorstep day in day out, nothing at all will prepare you for Capri.DSCN0403

Capri is probably the most well known island in the bay of Naples. And is a popular tourist destination for many celebrities. Boats are available from the mainland, but can get quite costly, especially from Sorrento, water taxi’s cost nearly 30 euros and will only drop you off at the Marina Piccola on the island of Capri. However, we paid slightly more at 40 euros and went with Soc.Coop Marina della Lobra. The ferry departs from the Marina Lobra at roughly 9 o’clock and allows for a 5 to 6 hour visit on the island, as well as giving you a tour of the island. Sights around the island include, The blue and green grotto, Faraglione di mezzo, Grotta di Masullo, Punta Carena and many more.

On the boat is another rep who will offer you a tour of the island for roughly 15 euros, which is well worth it, the public transport was not very good and looked small and congested. The rep ensured everyone a seat and ease of navigating the island.

The first stop, was Capri itself (the  island’s capital). Once given a tour of the main places and a meeting point is located, you are allowed to freely wonder Capri at your own pace. We decided to visit Augustus’ gardens for a small fee. The Garden had breathtaking views, of mountainsides, luxurious waters clear and blue. After a short walk we grabbed an ice cream. And slowly started making our way to the coach, as they do not wait.The next stop was Anacapri. On the tour, the first stop was the church, where the bell tower inspires stories . And, for just five euros I picked up a sterling silver charm of the bell. It was in Anacapri that we stopped for Lunch, I would recommend bringing plenty of spending money, as Capri is by no means a cheap excursion.

The final stop was the start the Marina Piccola, where we stayed for the remainder of the day for a swim on the overcrowded public  beach. During the journey back to the mainland, you’ll be offered a chance to take a tour of the Blue grotto. Entry to the Blue Grotto is roughly 13 euros, and then you’ll have to tip the boatmen roughly 5 euros each. As such, the Blue grotto can get rather busy and it is for this reason the over an hour wait to see the Grotto did not seem rather appealing.DSCN0470

Capri is an expensive excursion, particularly if you’re travelling from Sorrento. But is is so worth it, and the tour guides were very understanding of the older members in our party, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Ciao for now!

Hope

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Birmingham off the beaten track….

Ciao Ragazzi!

I’d be a Brummie, born and bred. I thought I’d spice things up on my blog and talk about (in my opinion) one of the greatest cities in the world. So here’s a short list of my top five favourite unknown restaurants in Birmingham!

I’ve avoided talking about all those generic chain restaurants like: pizza hut, zizzi, ask Italia, Nandos etc and have focused on the independent ones instead. By the way, these are in no particular order, just five of my favourites!

  1. Monsoon –

No not the clothing shop, but a curry house. First and foremost, Birmingham is the home of the Balti. Monsoon is a curry house based in Wythall and admittedly just outside Birmingham but the food is fantastic none the less. On Mondays and Tuesdays they offer a fab £8.95 deal for three courses, and it’s always heaving so I’d recommend booking in advance! The staff are friendly and very welcoming, not to mention the tantalizing smell and lively buzz to the place. And, it’s just undergone a brand new refurbishment.

2) Kitchen Gardens Cafe

Situated in Moseley, just off the main high street, this is a case of don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The outside looks slightly dilapidated and not very welcoming. But, get past the flower shop and you’ll see a lovely little cafe. We found this one Sunday, as we really really wanted a Sunday lunch without doing the cooking and stumbled upon this. And oh boy, was it heaven on my plate! The vegetables were all organic and in season and gave the meal a lovely seasonal touch. It’s slightly expensive for one meal at about £10 but sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy.

3) Paprika Grill

Now this one, was a Groupon find and has definitely brought me back for more. It’s in Selly Oak and is again a bit off the beaten track, but well worth the find. Do you crave a Mediterranean diet? Can’t find enough restaurants to accommodate your needs? Look no further than here. The kebab skewers, are in a range of flavours and meats, and also have Vegetarian options such as stuffed peppers. The starters are also tantalizing my favourite being the mozzarella and tomato. They also have a nice touch of Olives on the table upon arrival. (It’s the little things in my mind!)

4) The Lord Clifden – 

A pub, just had to make the list, am I right? This is what I’d call a proper pub, situated in the Jewelry quarter near the Blue Orange theatre, on a main road is a seemingly oblivious pub. The Lord Clifden doesn’t take bookings and always promises to be busy, I’d recommend the Thatchers Ice Cider, it’s beyond nice trust me.

5) The fountain – 

This is a recent find of mine and wow is it good. Again, I’m being cheeky, because it’s actually outside of Birmingham and is in actual fact located in Clent. We went here recently for my mum’s 50th and they personalised a paper menu just for her big day. Again, this was another Sunday Lunch moment and the Veg was brought out in lovely wicker baskets – a beautiful touch!

So here you have it, a few of my favourite off the beaten restaurants in Birmingham, enjoy and let me know if you end up going to one!

Ciao for now,

Hope

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A few thoughts on Mt Vesuvius

Ciao Ragazzi!

I am three weeks into the academic year and I am already inundated with work, but I am trying really hard to keep up with this Blog! I have some quirky travel posts that I have planned and will be up over the coming weeks (tips, food, comparison etc), as well as some more beauty lifestyle posts (first impressions of products, product empties and a vegan food festival).

But, for today’s post I want to talk about Mt. Vesuvius and my next post (hopefully tomorrow or Friday, will be a comparison piece to Etna). So, let’s get cracking…..DSCN0051

Whilst on a family holiday to the Amalfi coast, Mt.Vesuvius made it onto our wish list. Mt Vesuvius is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, it completely buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD (more to come on these later). From Sorrento, a town on the Amalfi coast often used as a hub for travel over, we took the circumvesuviana line – the locals call it vesuviana –  and got a train to Ercolano. But, be prepared for a long journey though, some are high speed trains (get that if you can), but most will stop at every stop – a real inconvenience as there are many! I’d recommend bringing plenty of water and snacks as it will be a long day. And, that is just for the train itself!

Once you disembark from the train, you will have to pay about 10 euros to a coach company in order to reach the summit (here I would like to take the time to disclose a warning, not all of the prices I will give are 100% accurate, but where I can they will be). The coach journey takes roughly 20 minutes, and you will be sure to have your life in your hands every second, with narrow winding roads, a huge coach and a big drop down the other side. The coach will then drop you in what they will say is a ‘gradual up-hill 15 minute walk to the crater.’ I would’t call it gradual by any stretch of the imagination. But, before you can begin climbing, it’s 10 euros entry, a bit less for children, students and OAP’s. This is quite a pricey excursion, but it is a must for any visit to this reason. The coach will give you only roughly 90 minutes to climb to the ‘peak,’ and get back down again – so you’ll have to be quick! To get to the summit itself, doesn’t take to long, but it allows you to walk around the crater fully, around the crater there are little shops where you can pick up a souvenir and an ice-cold drink! The walk itself can be agonizing on a hot day and for those of you who are not fit enough for the climb, then sit back, relax and enjoy these views. The view inside the crater can be disappointing for some tourists, but if I saw lava spewing out the sides, I’d be running the other way.

My next post, will be a comparison to Vesuvius and Etna, as well as a comparison of Pompeii and Herculaneum itself. Let me know what you thought of Vesuvius or any if you’re planning on going.

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Ciao for now,

Hope

Life Update #2: University, Jobs, year abroad and other such things!

Ciao Ragazzi!

So, here is my second life update post and since the last one, which was nearly a month ago, a lot has happened! The first ‘big,’ thing is travel related. On the 13th of September I headed down to London for the day to visit my Italian friend. She was completing an internship in the area and I wanted to see her before she want back to Italy. It was such a nice day and I just wanted to spotlight a quirky restaurant we ate at, Poppies in Spitalfields. It is what I can only describe as a classic fish and chip shop, the wall was lined with cockney rhyming slang, a nice touch. I’ve linked the website here: http://poppiesfishandchips.co.uk/IMG_2910

Secondly, as I mentioned previously I started back at university. This will be my final year at university and is rather daunting thought to consider, but nevertheless I am diving in the deep end, hence my sporadic posts of late.

Thirdly, I got a job! I know this doesn’t sound like such a major achievement, but to me it is. I wanted a part time job that I could manage around my university commitments, but still have time for. I have successfully obtained the role as a sales advisor in Warehouse. I am already in love with the job and I can assure that some clothes and fashion related posts will follow shortly.

And, the final update I wanted to write about, is the fact that it has officially been a year since I started out on my year abroad. So, this time last year on the 27/09/2014 I flew out on my year abroad. I remember vividly, how the first few weeks were so difficult, adapting to the new culture, homesickness and crucially making friends. I look back on this year abroad with fond memories and I am so proud to have done it. I know lots of people say that it is a life changing experience, but it truly is.

I realise this post was exceedingly choppy, but hopefully my writing style will improve as the weeks move on. Let me know if any of the above have happened to you!

Until next time!

Ciao!

Stratford Upon-Avon…. an Insight

Ciao Raggazi! So I have been a busy bee starting my final year of university eeek, I have given myself a little while to get settled in and to get a schedule going, so I know the ideal times to blog that fit in with my degree etc. preambles aside, it’s onto the focus of this post, travel! A lot of my travel posts are to do with Italy and my year abroad there, so I thought I’d mix it up and show you guys what the UK has to offer! Everyone and their mother knows that London is England’s powerhouse in terms of travel, but I want to take you outside of the nations capital.

One of my favourite places for a day out is Stratford-Upon Avon, living in Birmingham (UK)  fantastic transport links are available (esepcially with the opening of Birmingham Grand central), as well as the two other major train stations in the city center. To get to Stratford-Upon Avon from Birmingham a line runs from Birmingham Snow Hill station to Stratford-Upon Avon, and takes roughly 45 minutes and is relatively inexpensive for rail costs (esepcically if you own a railcard and book in advance).

The train station is roughly a 5-10 minute walk from the center of Stratfor-Upon Avon. The center has cobbled streets, quaint shops and a lively atmosphere, and is somewhere  you’ll fall in love with instantly. (I did).

There are five main houses in Stratford-Upon Avon, related to all things Shakespeare. These are: Shakespeare’s birthplace, Ann Hathaway’s Cottage. Mary Arden’s farm, Hall’s croft and Nash’s House. My favourite of these is Shakespeare’s birthplace, when you first enter a short video will be played giving some background information on Shakespeare and his works. Once past this small cinema screen, you’re let out into the courtyard and are free to wonder the house and outbuildings at a leisurely pace. There are period actors on hand to make the experience well worth it. Feel free to wonder and why not stop off at the cafe for some tea and scones. Stratfird-Upon Avon can be rather expensive to first time tourists, I really would recommend having a good hunt online, tickets for these attractions can be brought in advance and are a fraction of the price.

Another feature of Stratford-Upon Avon is the Royal Shakespeare company (RSC), whether it’s a play your watching, or grabbing a bite at the rooftop restaurant, it will provide for a truly magical experience. The RSC do some fantastic performances with some well known actors, such as David Tennant, who played Hamlet and Richard the third very recently.As well as fun for all the family with a Christmas performance of Wendy and Peter Pan. Next to the RSC is the river Avon, in the summer row boats line the river (you can rent out these to have a row up and down the river). But, Stratford is extremely picturesque in the winter too, with snow and ice covering the river and the grounds.

I could go on forever about Stratford, and this won’t be my last post about the place I can assure you of that. But, I do want to point you towards one more place, a quaint little shop – the Magic AlleyA Harry Potter inspired shop, that offers themed merchandise, snacks and a party experience you’re not likely to forget.

Stratford is a quintessential British town that is a must visit, not just for the history but for the atmosphere too.

Food Diary 14-20th September 2015

Ciao Raggazzi!

I thought I would try and get into this weekly routine of posting my weeks food diary! I have recently decided to become a vegetarian, this was not a decision I made lightly, but I already feel better for it and I hope these posts are helpful for any other budding vegetarians, just to demonstrate how much variety veggies can have across their cuisine!

These recipes won’t be in any sort of order but here they are!

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Left: Brown pasta and spinach & Right: Scrambled Eggs on Toast

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Left: Fruit smoothie & Right: Red lentil Vegan Soup

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Left: Cream of Mushroom soup & Right: Blackbean Stir-fry

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Spinach Frittata!

Hopefully, next week my posts will be more thorough, as in day by day, if anyone wants a more in depth recipe to any of the meals mentioned above then let me know in the comments!

Sorrento an insight!

Ciao Ragazzi! Sorry for my lack of  posts in this past week, sometimes life just catches up with you! But, I ma back with yet another travel post. I simply love travelling and writing about it is my second love! I am starting a very small series of posts, that I will dub as rather ‘generic,’ posts. Essentially, these will be posts about destinations that are already popular, but destinations that I want to talk about regardless. So, first things first, Sorrento!

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Sorrento is a  small coastal town in the south-west of Italy, widely known as a tourist hot-spot, as attractions like Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Mt. Vesuvius, Ravello and Positano, are just a stones throw away. It’s easy to see why many tourists use Sorrento as a holiday hub.

This was my first holiday, booking with a Thomson rep, and will most likely be my last. I adored the ease of the transfer (Thomson coaches are not hard to miss), but their extortionate prices for excursions, the condescending attitude of this particular rep, was an attitude I just could not tolerate. A member of my party lost their wallet and was not helped by the rep at all – its a shame one person can spoil a whole experience.

But Alas, I had a great time itself. We stayed at the Grand Flora hotel, my review of which can be found here. The hotel was situated in a great location, whilst on a busy main road (it could get slightly nosy), but it also meant you couldn’t get too lost. The hotel staff, particularly, the waiters were extremely accommodating and easily approachable! The evening meals were fantastic, and it was a joy to experience new dishes. However, going half-board isn’t something I would consider doing again, I felt bound to get back to the hotel when instead I’d rather have spent longer doing excursions. A factor that needs some consideration, are you there to relax or sightsee you’re heart out?

The first morning, we went on a tour of the Sorrento via Thomson, one thing that became obvious very quickly was the Limoncello, a spirit mainly produced in Southern Italy, and believe me its quite strong. However, there are many cocktails worth trying and as always I recommend Prosecco (a sparkling Italian white wine).

A point that I mentioned earlier- Sorrento, is great for its travel links, the local train and bus station (located in the same place), offer links to the rest of the south. You can get a bus to the Amalfi Coast, and train links to Naples (which stops at Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum). As well as, ferries and private boats that head out to the small islands, like Capri and Ischia.

If you want to spend a day in and around Sorrento, then you could head down to the beach. There is one public beach and gets very crowded, the rest of the seafront is private and you have to pay for, he parasol, sun-longer and even access onto the beach, so depending on whether you’re on a budget or not there’s a beach for you.

On one of our chilled out days, we went on the Sorrento ‘fun tram tours,’ it cost 7.50 euros and starts in the Piazza Tasso, the heart of Sorrento. It is lead by a tour guide, who will drop social and cultural tidbits along the tour. The tour will make its way slowly out of the town and along the coast offering stunning coastal views. There is also,  an open topped sight seeing bus, coasting 12 euros, an elderly couple in our party used this on one day also, and thoroughly recommended it!

Sorrento, also has some tourist attractions, one of which is the Salvador Dali museum, whilst I myself did not get a chance to visit here, its only 4 euros entry. However, in and around Sorrento, there are a plethora of Dali’s original statues. As well as, and old well, a wall surrounding the town, and the lemon groves. I would recommend just taking a stroll around the town, in particular the old quarter and just get lost in its maze of buildings.

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Birthday Weekend Update #1

Ciao Ragazzi!

Before I dive head first into this post. First, it was my 22nd birthday on Monday, which meant I had a beyond fabulous birthday weekend. And secondly, I currently live in Birmingham, UK, so expect a lot of Birmingham related lifestyle posts, as I take you on my final year of university!

I want to start this extravaganza, with a restaurant review of sorts. One of my closest friends is a vegan and she is forever taking me to these wonderfully quirky vegan/vegetarian restaurants and last Thursday was no different. We headed to the Ware house cafe, which is situated in the Digbeth area of Birmingham, so if you’re ever heading over to COW vintage then why not pop into the cafe for Lunch? I had the original burger, and it was completely vegetarian and tasted so delicious. The cafe also do some more ‘out there,’ dishes, such as the banana burger. The decor is nice and homely with wooden tables and chairs, it’s definitely a place to check out!

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Another venue I want to review is the Actress and Bishop. It’s a music pub near the Brindley place area of Birmingham. It has two floors of music, we sat in these squishy leather armchairs and sofas, enjoying the music, sipping our drinks and having a dance!

So those are some of the more quirky places I visited over the weekend!

Hope

A day in Positano!

Ciao Ragazzi! I am really sorry for my absense over the past week, but it was my birthday yesterday, so I was slightly busy with all things birthday related! (Expect a Birmingham UK Lifestyle post tomorrow/a birthday update).

However, today’s post is again inspired from my adventures in Italy and it’s exactly what the title says…… a day in positano!

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 A few months ago, I headed to the Amalfi Coast for my second time and whilst I was there I was lucky enough to go to positano again. During both my trips to the Amalfi Coast, I have stayed in the tourisitc seas-side town of Sorrento. The Amalfi drive has always been a dream of mine to do – but alas it’s yet to be. However, I have headed to a slightly smaller coastal town of Positano. Positano was chosen, as a friend who was originally from the region recommended Positano. And, boy it does not disappoint!

Positano is the first town on the bus from Sorrento and took roughly an hour on the bus. The bus services run throughout the day – during the peak season it can get very busy, so I’d recommend getting to the bus station early in the morning to avoid standing on the bus and to make a day of it in Positano. Arriving, in Positano, the bus drops you off at the top of a slopping hill. The view here is outstanding, picturesque beaches and scenery as far as the eye can see. There are pastel hewed houses all the way down, and once off the roadside, there are winding passageways of shops and delicatessens.

In the centre of this maze is an inviting courtyard, Palazzo Murat, which dates back to the 18th century. Situated in this courtyard is a gorgeous church, a woman stands outside with scarfs, so you can cover your shoulders before entering, if you haven’t already prepared for this that is! Travelling on past the courtyard, is the Spiagga Grande, a semi-sandy, semi-stony beach. There is like most of the beaches along the Amalfi coast a public beach, but the best parts are obviously privatised. But, if you’re after a chilled out day then by all means hire a sun-lounger and a parasol, sit back and relax – we did!

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Top 5 Italian foods you need to try!

Ciao Ragazzi!

I realise this blog is inundated with travel posts and esepcially travel posts that revolve around Italy. Today’s post is centred around food! As a nation, the Italians are passionate about food, and I’ve cheery picked some Italian food that I feel newcomers to Italy need to try. I want you to steer clear of the typical lasagne’s and bolognese that you’re likely to head for and try some of these instead!

This top 5 is highly generic and as the weeks go on, I will try and do a top five per region/city. But, anyway here goes, a very generic top 5 Italian foods that you NEED to try:

Pizza – This may sound like a rather generic choice, but Italian pizza is very different from your standard dominoeDSCN0297s or Pizza Hut pizza. The origin (whilst may not be historically correct) is Italy, particularly the south. And, it’s Naples that is synonymous with delicious pizza. In Naples, I just had to try pizza. And, believe me whether its 5 euros, 15 or 50 euros. I can assure you the pizza will tingle your taste buds.

Brushcetta – Is an absolute must. It can come with a variety of toppings and flavours, but the most common of these is tomato and basil on a sliced of toasted almost french bread. It’s normally served as a starter/snack and if you see it on a menu, believe me try it.

Prosecco –  Not one for the Under 18’s unfortunately! It is a sparkling white wine, don’t like white wine? I say you should give it a go anyway – you never know until you try! It’s got more of a champagne vibe than anything else (it’s a fizzy wine).

Cannelloni – Is a veDSCN0239ry popular dish in southern Italy and originated from Sorrento. Cannelloni, is essentially pasta rolled into a cylindrical shape, and served with a filling and covered in a sauce topping. Again, Cannelloni comes in a variety of toppings and fillings. My personal favourite is the Spinach and Ricotta flavoured Cannelloni. Yum – yum!

Geleto – Aka Ice-cream, and one of the easiest ways of describing is by comparinf it toWelsh Ice-cream. It’s an Italian staple and in the south of Italy they even have it as breakfast in Sicily!